I was shuffling boxes in my storage shed behind the house to make room for stuff that was overflowing my office when I opened a box that contained some stuff I could throw away without hesitation. Wadded up in the bottom of the box, though, was what might have been my first Southeast Missourian carrier bag.
I’ve been wracking my brain to remember the guy who hired me as a substitute carrier for the whopping pay of $2.50 a week for six days of delivery and collecting on Saturday morning. I think his name was Bob, and I was impressed at how together he seemed to be. He didn’t spend a lot of time teaching me the route: we walked it one time on one afternoon, then he handed me the collection book and said, “Don’t miss anybody.”
So short the bag dragged the ground
At 12 years old, I was so short I had to carry the bag cross my chest like a bandolier to keep it from dragging the ground. That might be why the bottom has a big hole in it. The bags had a long piece in the back that would fold forward to TRY to keep the papers from getting wet if it was raining. You can see it hanging down behind the bag.
Bob passed the route on to Jerry Collins. Houses were starting to pop up all over the place, so eventually the route was split and I got one of my own. I started out with about 90 customers and grew the route to around 300, which meant I needed to find two subs of my own. After paying them and buying the papers from The Missourian, I was making about $24 a week, half of what I made as a Missourian reporter.
I’m sorry that kids today don’t have the opportunity to carry papers like I did. I learned responsibility, how to keep books, customer relation skills and salesmanship. That’s a lot for a kid who hadn’t hit his teens yet.